As a parent, you know that many of your child’s advantages and experiences come from the programs he or she participates in. You understand that organized sports offer structure and physical activity, while music lessons cultivate your child’s talents and hone his or her fine motor skills.
But what about preschool? You may have heard conflicting ideas about how a child benefits from programs before he or she enters kindergarten. In this blog, we list six of the studied benefits of high-quality preschool programs.
How well do your kids know your neighborhood and city? You may take them to the Minnesota Zoo or to Longfellow Gardens-but have they ever visited the Union Gospel Mission or taken a trip to a nearby animal shelter?
The Twin Cities area offers plentiful opportunities to community volunteers. Whether you work a few hours at a soup kitchen or regularly donate to another local cause, you’ll find many organizations in need of your service. Most local societies are happy to receive adult volunteers.
But adults often forget how generous children are. Sometimes parents and teachers are so busy going over homework or running to sporting events that they forget to teach community service. Once kids experience the fun of giving and helping, they often continue serving their community as adults.
If you’ve always wanted to involve your children in service projects, start small. Here are a few fun ideas you can try now.
- Sell Cupcakes for Charity
Most kids love to help make cupcakes (or frost them and add sprinkles). Regardless of your child’s age, let him or her help you prepare cupcakes in some way. For example, if you plan to donate to a breast cancer organization, you can use pink sprinkles or outline the shape of a ribbon by using pink M&Ms.
Once you have a few dozen treats, walk with children through your neighborhood, telling residents that you’ve made cupcakes for a particular charity. Most people are only too happy to donate 25 or 50 cents per cupcake. Then, your children can help you tally the donations and take them to a local charity in person (or donate online).
- Donate Garden Goods
If you grow your own garden-even if it’s only several tomato plants on your balcony-you can teach young children to share the bounty with others. Fill small plastic bags with extra zucchini or a few cherry tomatoes, and donate them to a neighbor who just lost a job, or to a community or church function as a fresh relish tray.
- Treat Those Who Serve You
If your children are small, plan a day to give back to service personnel in your area. If the weather is particularly hot, serve your neighborhood garbage collector a popsicle or cool glass of homemade lemonade.
This concept also works nicely for those who deliver your mail or sweep and shovel roads. It can make a busy driver’s day to receive a handmade card from a five-year old. And your children will love offering a cup of hot chocolate to your landlord or plumber on a dreary winter day.
- Volunteer With a Church Group
If you belong to a local congregation and it regularly participates in community outreach projects, involve your kids whenever possible. If you’re cleaning the church grounds, give your child his or her own small garbage sack and pair of worker’s gloves. Likewise, if you’re helping deliver meals to a shut-in, let your child carry a few food items when you go to the door.
If your church sponsors a children’s group, offer to chaperone during a trip to a senior living facility where the children may sing songs or present residents with a small handmade gift.
- Work at a Food Shelter
Some local shelters allow families to serve meals. If so, give each child a specific task. One might help you fill or re-fill water glasses. Another can help you wipe down each table before serving or take away empty plates. One child can be a runner who informs adults when a food item runs low.
If your local food pantry or soup kitchen doesn’t need servers, ask if you can donate funds or actual food items. Your child may agree to give a bake sale or lemonade stand’s proceeds to a food pantry. These funds help pantry workers purchase needed food items when inventory is low.
- Remember Animal Shelters
Most kids love animals. If your child wants to donate to an animal shelter, consider helping him or her create a few easy chew toys from old denim jeans or colorful fleece scraps knotted together. Or, make handmade cards together that you can sell. Use proceeds to help animal shelters purchase dog food or other supplies.
If neighbors need help walking dogs during vacation, ask for a one-time donation that your child will give to the local animal rescue association. Then, set up a routine for your child to follow. This task works best for older children or those who know how to handle pets.
- Show Kindness
It’s not difficult to teach children to show kindness in your community. Opportunities lie everywhere-at your grocery store, on the sports field, at school, at the Laundromat, and just about any other place.
Help your child create some simple pass-along cards that say things like “Thanks for your smile,” “We appreciate you,” or “Thank you for being so helpful.” Carry these with you to give to a kind grocery bagger, favorite teacher, or helpful store clerk.
You never know what creative and fun service opportunities lie beyond the lemonade stand! Help your child get more involved in the community by volunteering today.
You may have noticed that your child’s Montessori education involves yoga, soccer and other physical activities. And when you noticed this, you probably wondered why the education system bothers with exercise. After all, when you think of school, you think of mental enrichment-not physical enrichment.
However, physical exercise contributes to your children’s overall mental health as well. Exercise boosts your children’s lifelong health and increases their chances for future successes. So, even though it may seem counterintuitive, physical activity represents a critical part of your kids’ education.
Below, we’ve listed a few ways that exercise boosts your little ones’ development.
- It controls weight.
You’ve likely seen stories about obese children in the news. In many cases, these children didn’t exercise or eat well. As a result, they became overweight early on, which began a cycle of increasing mass that even an adult would struggle to break out of.
You don’t want this to happen to your children. And while your kids probably won’t become obese, they may still struggle to control their weight if they don’t get regular exercise. So even if your children dance or play sports at school, they should still do something active when they get home. They’ll stay fit and healthy with that strategy.
- It strengthens muscles and bones.
When the body senses that certain muscles and bones handle more force than others, it sends more nutrients to those areas. The added nutrients make the tissues stronger, and your child becomes healthier as a result. If you want to ensure your kids have tough and healthy bodies, make sure they stay active every day.
- It lengthens your kids’ lifespan.
Studies have shown that people who exercise for at least seven hours per week have a 40% lower risk of an early death than those who exercised for less than a half hour. This statistic makes sense because physical activity also reduces a person’s risk for serious diseases, which we’ll discuss below. As a result, an active person has a more resilient body and tissues, so he or she will stay healthier longer.
- It reduces the risk for serious diseases.
When children and adults gain weight, they become more susceptible to certain diseases, including high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and more. The excess weight weakens the body and decreases the immune system’s ability to fight off infections. This lets diseases set in.
Luckily, exercise prevents some of these conditions and mitigates the risk for others.
- It improves your kids’ mental health.
Exercise releases endorphins and other hormones that help the body feel energized and euphoric. And that extra energy and euphoria boosts your children’s happiness. Your children also have a lower risk for depression and anxiety because exercise induces good emotions and purges toxins from the body.
Additionally, exercise increases blood flow to the brain, so it should improve the organ’s overall performance. Even if your children don’t want to become athletes, a little exercise can help them become the brainiacs and artists they want to be instead.
- It boosts self-esteem and body image.
As mentioned above, physical activity helps your children control their weight. This control has another benefit other than overall health: it also improves your kids’ self-esteem. They won’t have to worry about how they look because they carry too much weight, so they’ll feel happier and more confident as a result.
- It builds characteristics like work ethic.
If you enroll your kids in team sports, they’ll have to work hard to stay fit and develop the skills necessary for their sport. As a result, they’ll learn discipline and develop a health work ethic. These characteristics will help them succeed later in life.
- It teaches interpersonal skills.
Team sports also encourage children to work together towards a common goal. Your kids will have to learn about cooperation. They’ll also make friends, and they’ll have to learn how to lose graciously. These crucial skills can help them develop more successful relationships as they grow older.
- It taps into your children’s creativity.
When children dance, or even when they play sports, they have to think creatively and strategically. So if you want your children to become cleverer than ever, exercise represents the right solution. After all, to some extent, creativity is a skill rather than an inherent trait.
- It encourages a love of nature.
Most exercise takes place outside in the fresh air. It gets your children off the couch and out of the house so they can enjoy nature. They’ll learn to appreciate the cloudy days and the sunny ones. They’ll get to bask in fall’s fiery colors. They will also have the opportunity to watch things in the natural world that they may not have seen before, like ant colonies, new sprouts, birds’ nests, and more,
Physical activity has a lot of benefits beyond bodily health-though that benefit matters a lot too. If you’d like your children to develop any of the qualities listed above, start encouraging them to exercise today
As you watch your child reach for the iPad or the television remote, you can’t help but wonder the effect technology has on his or her growth and development. You’ve noticed he doesn’t like to play outdoors, and she only quotes her favorite cartoons.
According Mayo Clinic, some screen time can serve educational purposes, but too much TV leads to a variety of health and behavioral problems. Children who watch more than two hours a day tend to have a greater likelihood of experiencing obesity, irregular sleep schedules, impaired academic performance, and decreased verbal intelligence.
So what can you do to encourage your children to reconnect with nature?
1. Read Fun Books
To spark your child’s imagination and rekindle his or her love for nature, grab a few books and read before bedtime. These timeless titles all illustrate nature in a fun, exciting, and endearing way:
- The Wump World by Bill Peet
- The Curious Garden by Peter Brown
- The Little House by Virginia Lee Burtons
- On Meadowview Street by Henry Cole
- Just a Dream by Chris Van
- Allsburg Weslandia by Paul Fleischman
Once you’ve finished with these, let your children browse for books on their own. They may surprise you with what they pick.
2. Create a Work of Art
Many children love hands-on experiences, and the messier the better. Let your children explore their inner artist and create meaningful works of art.
Here are a few ideas to help you start:
- Create a nature journal and fill it with drawings of trees, leaves, and flowers.
- Paint animals on rocks and let them keep it as a pet.
- Collect leaves, sticks, and pebbles on a nature walk. Glue them to cardboard to create a one-of-a-kind landscape. Dip pinecones into paint and roll them on paper to print beautiful designs.
- Use nuts and shells to fashion trendy jewelry.
- Combine sticks and clay to form sculptures.
- Make wind chimes out of shells and string.
- Decorate flowerpots with snail shells and then grow a tiny garden.
The sky’s the limit! Let your children’s creativity fly as free as the birds.
3. Plan Family Outings
The whole family should have fun as they reconnect with nature, not just your little ones. Plan family outings that involve everyone, from your youngest toddlers to your eldest teens.
As go on adventures consider doing the following:
- Check out the aquarium, animal museum, or botanical garden
- Hike or bike nearby trails
- Go camping at state parks
- Take a vacation to the beach or lake
- Watch the sunrise or sunset
- Grab a telescope and go stargazing
- Walk around your neighborhood
- Participate in a nature scavenger hunt
Need a few more ideas? Ask your children! They’ll likely have a few places they want to see or activities they want to do.
4. Build a Safe Environment
Some children might not feel comfortable playing on their own at a park or even in their own backyard. Or perhaps you might feel stressed at the idea of your little one touching (or even tasting) objects from unknown origins.
To ensure both you and your child feel happy and relaxed, create a safe space in your backyard. Put up sturdy fences around more dangerous areas, and teach children that they shouldn’t pick or smash any plants you may have in the flowerbed.
You can also set up good playground equipment to help entertain your kids. A simple swing set, slide, or playhouse fuels the imagination and promotes active play. Just make sure you use quality materials-opt for smooth, soft rubber rather than rough rope and wood. And cover the areas around your playground with shock-absorbing materials, such as mulch or sand.
And don’t forget to inspect your backyard regularly-replace worn play equipment or cover sharp edges as needed.
5. Provide Tools for Discovery
Children don’t always need expensive playgrounds or organized activities to enjoy Mother Nature. Sometimes all they want is some room to explore and basic tools to inspect their discoveries.
If you wish, fill a backpack with the following:
- Butterfly net
- Magnifying glass
- Pencil, crayons, and paper
Teach your children how to safely use these items and interact with insects or other animals.
And remember, these items don’t need to cost a fortune. Even the most careful and cautious child might accidentally break their tools during play time. Child-friendly plastic items will save you a lot of heartache and money.
6. Set a Positive Example
Your children watch what you do, so set a positive example. In addition to encouraging your child to explore nature, give yourself some time to pursue your favorite outdoor hobbies. Grab your camera and snap some close-ups of your favorite flowers. Pull weeds from your garden and plant a few trees in your yard.
With these methods, you and your children will develop a personal, thrilling relationship with nature in almost no time.
Studies show that healthy foods help kids do better in school. In one study, children who ate more vegetables, fruit, protein and fiber did better on literacy tests than kids who ate foods high in salt and saturated fat.
While you know healthy foods are the right choice for your children, it can be difficult to get them to eat healthy snacks. Why would your kids want to eat apples and carrots when they can choose potato chips and candy bars?
Fortunately, there are plenty of healthy snack options that are still yummy for kids. Here are a few treats that will make kids’ bodies healthy and tummies happy.
1. Fruit Smoothie
Kids love the sweet, creamy taste of smoothies. There’s no need to make smoothies packed with sugar-instead, try healthy ingredients like fruits and vegetables.
To start, try this recipe for a high-fiber broccoli smoothie. All you need to do is blend the following ingredients:
- 1 avocado
- 1 banana
- 1 cup chopped broccoli
- 1 cup cherries
- 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
- 1 cup pomegranate juice
2. Yogurt Parfait
This is a healthy alternative to ice cream-and a very tasty dessert. In a cup, layer the following:
Instead of regular yogurt, try Greek yogurt, which is packed with protein to help your growing kids build muscle. It also contains probiotics, which aid digestion. And don’t forget about brain-boosting blueberries, which reduce short-term memory loss.
3. Ants on a Log
Kids love making this recipe themselves. It resembles ants climbing across a log, but it’s really a great source of vitamins, minerals, and protein.
- Cut celery sticks into small pieces. These are the “logs.”
- Spread natural peanut butter into the crevice of each celery stick. Peanut butter is a great source of fiber, potassium, andantioxidants.
- Stick raisins (“ants”) in the peanut butter.
4. Fruit and Cheese Kebabs
Small pieces of cheese give your kids calcium, zinc, and other vitamins and minerals, and fruits like apples, bananas, strawberries, pineapple, and mango give your kids many vitamins and minerals. Arranging fruit and cheese into a delicious kebab can make these foods even more fun for your kids to eat.
Cut pieces of cheese and fruit, and layer them on a kebab skewer. Then eat and enjoy!
5. Yogurt Pops
What kid doesn’t love popsicles? With a yogurt pop, your kids get a healthy treat. Here’s what you do:
- Blend 2 containers yogurt, 2 cups cut-up fruit, and 1 tablespoon honey.
- Put the mixture in paper cups.
- Cover the cups with foil.
- Put a craft stick into the center of each cup. Freeze for 6 hours.
6. Whole Wheat Crackers and Hummus
Whole wheat reduces the risk of heart disease, obesity, and many other diseases. Choose whole wheat crackers for your kids, and have them dip the crackers in hummus, a dip high in vitamins, protein, and heart-healthy fats. Kids also love to dip carrots, cucumbers, and other vegetables.
Store-bought microwave popcorn contains many artificial flavors. However, air-popped popcorn is high in protein and dietary fiber. Popcorn will fill your kids up and provide great nutritional value-just hold back on the butter and salt.
Kids will love getting a paper bag filled with popcorn that they can take to school or activities.
8. Homemade Trail Mix
Let your kids make their own trail mix by choosing their favorite mix of various foods. Include the following nutritious foods:
- Peanuts, which add protein to the mix
- Almonds, which lower cholesterol and help build strong bones
- Cranberries, which fight diseases thanks to their antioxidants
- Dark chocolate chips, which provide nutrients like iron and magnesium and could even lower blood pressure when eaten in small amounts
- Cheerios, which contain soluble fiber that lowers cholesterol
9. Banana-Oat Snack Cakes
Instead of grabbing a sugary granola bar, kids can enjoy these homemade snack cakes. They contain heart-healthy oats and potassium-rich bananas.
- 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
- 1 cup flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces and melted
- 3 bananas (chopped)
- Set oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Coat a baking dish with butter, and then cover with parchment paper.
- Whisk oats, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
- In a separate bowl, whisk brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla.
- Slowly add butter to brown sugar mixture and whisk.
- Add bananas to dry ingredients and toss.
- Stir dry mixture into brown sugar mixture.
- Spread batter in the dish.
- Bake about 35 to 40 minutes.
- Let cool and cut.
Remember, kids need frequent snacks to keep up their energy and brain power. Your kids can eat these snacks at home or bring them to school or activities. Pack your kids some of these delicious, nutritious snacks, and help them start a healthy lifestyle early on.
It’s the first day of school. You pull into the parking lot, park your car, unbuckle your preschooler, and slowly walk toward the school. You hear your child breathing deeply and look down to make sure he’s okay. You catch sight of his eyes, now brimming with tears, and begin to worry.
Your child is shy. How is he going to survive his first few days of school?
If you have a child that struggles with shyness or social phobia, you are not alone. According to a recent study conducted in the United States, nearly 40 percent of children have reported shyness. Fortunately, you can combat shyness and help your child feel comfortable in a group setting long before preschool starts.
1. Explore Extracurricular Activities
Dance? Check. Basketball? Check. Theater? Check. There are dozens of extracurricular activities you can involve your children in throughout the year. If you want to prepare your children for preschool interactions, sign up for extracurricular activities a year before school starts. Some popular and unique extracurricular activities include the following:
- Music groups
- Group sports (tennis, T-ball, soccer, basketball)
- Gymnastics and cheerleading
- Chess clubs
- Baking and/or cooking
Extracurricular activities will help your children learn to share, communicate, work in a team, and understand body language. Activities stimulate your child’s brain and help him feel more comfortable in a social situation. Visit your local recreational center to see which activities are available near you.
2. Maintain Balance
Your child needs balance. If your son starts playing basketball and forms a mild obsession, incorporate different activities into his schedule to ensure he is a well-rounded individual. Often, similar personality types get involved in similar activities. Open your child’s mind to different personality types with an array of activities.
If your son likes basketball, sign him up for a summer theater camp to learn more about performance arts. If your daughter loves chess, sign her up for an 8-week dance course so she can dip her toes into a variety of fun activities. Help your child learn about and try different activities to maintain a healthy and balanced schedule.
3. Encourage and Support Dreams
On the other hand, it’s important to let your child develop skills that will help him or her get better at one hobby or activity. If your son loves basketball and dreams of playing in high school, college, or the NBA, support him. Help him integrate himself in the basketball culture so he can make long-lasting friendships and connections.
4. Create a Play Group
If you don’t have the time or money for extracurricular activities, create activities close to home. A neighborhood play group is the perfect way to help your children socialize with neighbors. Call other parents in the neighborhood to decide on a day (most play groups meet twice a week) and then rotate between houses.
Incorporate fun learning activities into your play groups so your children and their friends can get ready for preschool and feel confident with the ABCs and 123s.
5. Socialize Together
“Careful the things you say, children will listen. Careful the things you do, children will see and learn. Children will look to you for which way to turn, to learn what to be.” – Stephen Sondheim, Into the Woods
Monkey see, monkey do. Your children will mimic your behavior. If you want your children to socialize and feel comfortable in a group setting, you need to socialize yourself. Invite friends over for weekly get-togethers so your children can see you conversing and laughing with friends of your own.
If you want to kill two birds with one stone, have your friends bring their children so your family can form lasting relationships with other families. If your child experiences stranger danger, constant contact with friendly adults and children will make your child more comfortable in the company of others.
Another terrific way to socialize with your child is to spend time together. Eat together. Laugh together. Go on walks together. Sing and dance together. Talk together.
You need to form a relationship with your children. Become friends. Listen. Do all you can to help your child feel comfortable opening up and trying new things.
6. Don’t Boast On Your Child’s Behalf
Although you may be tempted to boast about your child, don’t. No parent or child likes to hear about the endless success of another. Jealousy and pride are part of human nature. Don’t alienate your child by constantly boasting. Instead, help your child develop humility so they can fit in in a group setting.
Take the time to get to know your child and understand his needs. Don’t feel overwhelmed if it takes a while for your child to warm up to others. Look for ways to get involved so your child can feel comfortable when the school year starts.
It’s important to start your child’s education off on the right foot. In order to give kids a one-up on their future, many parents send their children to preschool. There are a variety of quality educational institutions across the country who provide younger children an opportunity to learn and grow at earlier ages.
If you’re planning on enrolling your children in preschool, you’ll need to prepare them beforehand. Here are a few tips on how you can do just that.
Read to Them
With so many educational shows on today, sometimes it’s nice to plop the little one down in front of a multicolored dinosaur who sings about sharing, caring, and the ABCs. While that may be an effective way to introduce some topics to your child, make sure you set aside some time each night to read to them.
As you read to your child nightly, you will foster an environment where their imagination can grow. This will help them develop abstract thinking skills, a deeper vocabulary, and stronger listening skills. And as your child sees you reading, they will develop a desire to learn to read as well.
You can check books out from your local library, purchase them at your neighborhood bookstore, or download them from the Internet. With so books covering almost every topic imaginable, you’ll have an easy time finding one your child will enjoy.
Set a Schedule
Children are creatures of habit, which is why setting a schedule for them is imperative. Children’s most basic pattern is their sleep schedule. Your child should wake up and fall asleep around the same time every day. This will help them behave properly while they are awake.
It’s likely that your child’s sleep schedule is in sync with your own. If it is, and your schedule aligns with that of the preschool, then your child should have little trouble getting out of bed and going to school.
If these two schedules differ for any reason, spend a few days before preschool begins adjusting them to a new pattern. This will help solidify their routine once preschool begins.
Increase Social Interactions
Preschool is a great time for your child to develop social skills. They will interact with strangers from different social, religious, and economic groups. Your child will learn to share, communicate, express their emotions, and work and play with others. These skills will help them as they grow in maturity.
Children with limited social experience may benefit from enrollment in pre-curricular classes. Community centers and gyms offer a variety of stimulating activities targeted at helping children interact. Here are a few ideas of classes you can enroll your child in:
Expand their Responsibilities
Before your child starts preschool, it’s a good idea if to give them a few more responsibilities. Start by doing small things. Chores are just one way to help children develop independence. Have them clear away plates and utensils after a meal, or pick up their toys before bedtime.
As your children grow, increase the difficulty of their tasks.
Visit a Classroom
As part of your preschool preparation, it may pay to spend some time in a classroom. This will help your child develop expectations of what to expect in the classroom. It may also give them a chance to meet potential classmates and start to develop lasting social connections. And as a parent, it will give you an opportunity to get to know the teacher, and the way the teacher manages the classroom.
Once you have spent some time in a classroom, spend some time playing school when you get home. Reinforce proper behaviors during a fun play session with your kid. Take turns playing the student and the teacher. As a student, model proper behavior. As a teacher, demonstrate what your child can expect in a classroom.
Pay close attention to how your child acts during this time. This will give you an insight into their mind, and can help you curb negative behaviors before they show up in class.
The last thing you need to do before you little one goes off to preschool is prepare yourself. If you’re used to spending most of your day caring your child, sending them off to school can cause a great deal of emotional stress. Prepare to feel separation anxiety as you drop your baby off for the first time.
On that first day, give yourself plenty of time to arrive at school early. Once your child settles in, leave. This may sound harsh, but the longer you stay, the more difficult it will be to go. And after the minutes have ticked by and it’s time to pick up your little one, stay positive.
Ask questions about how their day went. Listen intently to the things they say. As you show interest in their preschool activities, their interest will increase.
Preschool provides children with a fun way explore their world in a safe, nurturing environment. If you are looking to start your child’s education off on the right foot, find a qualified institution in your area.